Write and Produce Horror Movies with Marco Dutra

I had the opportunity to talk with Marco Dutra, a Brazilian director and screenwriter, who is highlighting in the cinema market.

Marco Dutra is a film director, writer, editor and composer based mainly in São Paulo. His first feature film, Hard Labor (Trabalhar Cansa), made with longtime partner Juliana Rojas, premiered in the Cannes Film Festival 2011 (Un Certain Regard) and went on to gain numerous awards around the world. Its script was one of the finalists for the Sundance/NHK Award. His shorts The White Sheet (O Lençol Branco) and A Stem (Um Ramo) were both selected for the Cannes Film Festival. A Stem was awarded there as Best Short Film in Critic’s Week. When I Was Alive (Quando Eu Era Vivo) was his second feature, and further developed his investigation of the horror genre. It opened in the Rome Film Festival in 2014. His third feature, Era el Cielo, was shot in Uruguay and is being prepared for release in 2016. He now works in the pre-production of Good Manners (As Boas Maneiras), a horror fairy tale co-produced with France to be released in 2017. Marco also worked as a writer for such directors as Karim Aïnouz, Cao Hamburger, Sérgio Machado, Paulo Morelli and Dennison Ramalho. He graduated in University of São Paulo’s Film School and is part of the production group Filmes do Caixote. Recently Marco Dutra produced his new feature film, Era el Cielo, which was shooted in Uruguay.

Marco Dutra

MENEGATTI: Hi, Marco. I’d like to know how did you’ve start your career, what has motivated you to do what you do today. Tell me your story.

MD: My parents had a Super 8 camera since I was born (1980) and after that, they buyed a VHS camera. I always lived with the both and I learned to use them pretty early and I did some little genre movies with my brothers in that time. Besides that, I always watched movies since I was a child (at home or film theatre), and my parents always mativated me to do that. The love I had for the movies was evident – it was obsessive sometimes. In 1997, when I was in a conversation with a school friend (Eliézio Aguiar, who currently continous my friend and today he’s a doctor), it seemed me evident I should study cinema. I studied at USP (University of São Paulo), where I knew Juliana Rojas, Caetano Gotardo, Daniel Turini and many other friends whom today are work partners of mine.

MENEGATTI: What fascinates you in the horror genre? When did you know you wanted to write a horror film?

MD: What fascinated me early was the potential of the fantastic movies. Snow White and Sleeping Beauty (Disney) were big highlights and I watched them many times. In these movies I finded the musical, the fantastic, and also the horror. The Sleeping Beauty is one of my inspirations for my new feature, which’s producing with Juliana Rojas: Good Manners. Sleeping Beauty is a movie which I watch still today, again, again and again, every year. It fascinates me yet. Thus began my interest for the genre, of course, after that other influences appeared, like Wes Craven, Lucio Fulci, Romero, John Carpenter, Hitchcock, Mojica… That’s an infinite universe and very rich, where I already knew I wanted to be part of that, or try to be.

MENEGATTI: How did you get into the industry?

MD: My graduation short film: “The White Sheet”, which was produced with Juliana Rojas, was selected by the Cannes Festival and then we start to know the market reality. After I have finished my graduation, I worked with the Companhia do Latão, a theater company, in the audiovisual nucleus research. It was a continuation of my learning. So we produced a second short film: “A Stem”, which was well disclosed too. Our first feature: “Hard Labor”, opened doors to us and in this way we follow with the film production.

MENEGATTI: Which movies/authors influenced you to be a screenwriter/director? What did you learn with them, which has helped you to become who you are today and the things that you do today?

MD: My first passions, as I said, began when I was a child. After that, others came, of course. But I need to mention Disney, Stephen King, Stephen Sondheim, Hitchcock and M. Night Shyamalan; they are some names which made me want to live the life which I live today, despite any difficulty and my own limitations. In the University time, Walter Hugo Khouri and Wilson Barros were important artists for my learning. They are people whom believe in the narrative and in the power of the image (the mise-en-scene concept). Sondheim is a musician, but his work also include cinema and theatre and that’s enthralling.

MENEGATTI: What the most scary scenes you’ve watched in a horror film? Why these scenes worked, in your opinion?

MD: The Snow White death, the transformation of Pinocchio in a donkey, the mythical The Blair Witch Project final, the clown into the downtake pipe in the horror movie IT. Usually, scenes which disturb me are less explicit and absurds, like a nightmare. The disturbance is more important than graphic effects – that’s why gore movies never attracted me, although I’ve much respect for them.

MENEGATTI: I don’t want to take too much of your time. To finish our conversation I’d like to know – for you, what’s the  main challenge in the horror/suspense writing?

MD: I believe horror and suspense need much precision as in the writing as in the  filming and in the edition. We’re wanting the provocation of some feelings in the person who watch it, and this sort of feelings just happen if the film structure is well done. I tried to do that in Hard Labor, When I Was Alive, Era el Cielo, my feature films until now, and I follow in this way in the Good Manners, film I’ve produced with Juliana Rojas, which I’m editing now. Each film I produce I learn some of new, and I think the constant practice is essential for this learning. You always need to write scripts and shoot them to conquest better and better results.

If you like horror movies, mainly write them, read up my article: Narrative Structure of the Horror Stories – just in a click: (https://fernandomenegatti.com/2016/11/16/narrative-structure-of-the-horror-stories/)


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